‘A Christmas Carol’: A new take on the classic tale – By Mattison Johnston

January 8, 2013 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

In this timeless classic, The Goodman brings to life the heart-warming moral of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”: Gift good unto fellow man, or fear the consequences of selfish living.

Among smoke (perhaps a bit overdone), flashing multicolor lights (credited to Robert Christen) and bright colors of both the set and costume sort (Heidi Sue McMath), the set (designed by Todd Rosenthal, a talented and experienced member of the theater world) pop. Adults, children, first-timers and veterans of “A Christmas Carol” alike will be absorbed by the bright life produced on stage, from a combination of these talented people’s contributions.

Framed by the classic facades that have graced The Goodman’s production of the play for years, Rosenthal carefully mixes tradition with the new. Though the astounding—and at times unbelievable—rolling buildings have been around for years, the colors and position of props add a feeling of being physically drawn in to each scene.

From the very start, Ebenezer Scrooge (played by the energetic and believable Larry Yando) creates a hilarious and fresh take on the Scrooge of tradition, creating a near parody of the character himself, with the skilled acting necessary to pull it off tastefully. Yando provides for both the comedy of the role, with the dedication to the more emotionally packed scenes, such as the visit to the Cratchits’ future. Still, this balance allows for scenes such as these to be both meaningful, but not overwhelming to the viewer.

Introduced with gloomy greens and clouds, the ghost of Jacob Marley (Joe Foust), who comes to tell Scrooge of his unfortunate reckoning, causes the audience’s younger members to shake in their boots and unsettles even the most steel-willed viewers. Credit is due here to light designer Robert Christen and sound designer Richard Woodbury, who employ wafting smoke and dark colored lights, paired with physically disconcerting sounds, such as voice-changing technology and the multiplied sounds of chains smashed against floor. Foust himself provides a mournful yet absolutely terrifying portrayal of the regretful friend to Scrooge.

The effervescent Elizabeth Ledo gives an excellent performance as the Ghost of Christmas Past, soaring high above the crowd, alight with halo and glowing hands and feet, bringing a hint of charm to Scrooge’s somewhat depressing childhood scene. Alongside the garishly dressed Ghost of Christmas Present (Penelope Walker), the two female performers bring much to the table, creating perfectly timed breaks in the more serious side of the play.

Of course, the acting itself is not wholly responsible for these well-planned diversions. Adaptor Tom Creamer provides an original take on the script for “A Christmas Carol.” With insertions of humor, tactful displays of underlying morals and witty dialogue, the classic is rendered completely accessible to every audience member.

A mention is also quite necessary to Ron Rains, who offers a loveable and lighthearted portrayal of Bob Cratchit. Rains adds a dash of comedy to the happy-go-lucky character, whom misfortune befalls so frequently.

Director Steve Scott helps to bring the show to its full potential, with well-directed body language that keeps the audience engaged. Paired with the adapted script, these factors truly enhance the show for the modern age. In a time of economic troubles, this performance of “A Christmas Carol” reminds us all of the true nature of the holidays. With the closing of the curtain comes a warm feeling in the bellies of the masses, and an even warmer one in the hearts of all.

A congratulations is due to staff and cast, who worked tirelessly to live up to the 35th anniversary of “A Christmas Carol”.